WiHTL is a collaboration community of companies focussing on gender, race and ethnicity and promoting inclusive cultures across the hospitality, travel and leisure sector. I was pleased to be able to share our expertise with the Forum on the impact of the pandemic on women across the sector.
It is very well documented that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women. The hospitality, travel and leisure industries have arguably been impacted more than any others and continue to be following recent announcements that some restrictions are to continue. 60-to-70 per cent of the workforce is made up of women. A large proportion of them work part-time, and it is this part of the workforce that has experienced the severest impact. More women than men have been furloughed. Many women had little choice and had to request to be placed on furlough. We know that most of the burden of caring responsibilities has fallen onto women. Sadly, we also know that women have volunteered for redundancy when there was an opportunity. The sector has seen a drain of incredible talent and senior level female role models. The loss of role models could have serious consequences for future generations of women working their way up in the industry. There have also been consequences for learning and development opportunities. In hospitality, probably more than in any other industry, people have been put on furlough for long periods of time; some have been out of the workplace for almost a year and a half, and this clearly has implications for progression and earning potential.
We need a response that recognises the disproportionate impact. If we don’t act these effects will be debilitating for many years to come. Funds need to be directed to those most effected. The disparities created by the pandemic need to be addressed. And we need to all act to change a culture which does not always support women in the workplace. Hybrid working, flexible working, and parental leave need to be normalised, and accessible and affordable childcare is needed. We all have a responsibility to continuously challenge the stereotypes we see day in and day out. There are no quick fixes.